A High School Amateur's Storm Chase Vehicle

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Feb 19, 2018
51
16
6
Dunlap Illinois
Well...in EU traffic you aren't holding a camera in one hand the whole time. ;)
That's the beauty of a 3 on the tree, you can pretty much steer and shift with the same hand (You need to be a real man to do that without power steering).

Seriously, though, I am going to install a camera mount, along with an automatic navigation machine/cupholder (my causin Owen).

I just decided to pull the engine out of my truck and freshen it up over a weekend (paint it, new camshaft, new gaskets new head, new clutch, and an overdrive transmision.
 
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Reactions: Marc R. O'Leary
Sep 7, 2013
635
462
21
Strasburg, CO
That's the beauty of a 3 on the tree, you can pretty much steer and shift with the same hand (You need to be a real man to do that without power steering).

Seriously, though, I am going to install a camera mount, along with an automatic navigation machine/cupholder (my causin Owen).

I just decided to pull the engine out of my truck and freshen it up over a weekend (paint it, new camshaft, new gaskets new head, new clutch, and an overdrive transmision.
Jack...I think you need a youtube channel!
 
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May 25, 2014
357
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I also meant to chime in on this. A manual transmission is a nightmare for chasing and I would even argue it’s a safety risk. It’s easy to get lost in the moment and forget to set the brake, along with just being in and out of the vehicle too much to mess with it. I guarantee you I’d forget to either set the brake or release it and then burn something up. Less things to tinker with in the field is always best.
Manual is second nature, if you've driven them long enough. Those types of "accidents" and slip ups just don't happen.

My next build will likely be a manual Explorer.
 
Sep 7, 2013
635
462
21
Strasburg, CO
Manual is second nature, if you've driven them long enough. Those types of "accidents" and slip ups just don't happen.

My next build will likely be a manual Explorer.
I've been driving a manual since I was 13 around the homestead. I've forgotten the e-brake while chasing before. Sometime shit just gets real active real fast and something slips. I've also done it while stopping to get the mail, but that's not as fun of a story.

Point of note: No the car never "got away."
 
Sep 7, 2013
635
462
21
Strasburg, CO
Haha, ok, I didn't cross my mind that one would actually hold a camera and trying to point the camera towards a tornado while driving. Sounds like an unsafe action, but then again: I'm worthless when it comes to multitasking. =)
You never think you'll do it or plan to do it but you will do it. Snapping rapid fire photos out the window at 70mph isn't something I ever expected to do but sure as heck I've done it.
 

James K

EF3
Mar 26, 2019
273
102
6
Colorado
I just drove 2 hours and picked up a topper for my truck yesterday. It's going to become my home during that week.
Once I install a bed and some other comfort items, it'll beat any one star motel I could afford.
Seems like a perfect way to do it :)

Haha, ok, I didn't cross my mind that one would actually hold a camera and trying to point the camera towards a tornado while driving.
Something I personally wouldn't risk, I'd probably end up dropping the camera! ... not to mention doing this would most likely also be illegal in my state..
 
Dec 19, 2007
28
0
1
Brookville, IN
I think you'd be much better off in the Suburban than the truck. The burb is already large enough to sleep in, and you have the back seat for extra storage. You mentioned possibly pulling a camper, or adding a slide in camper, to the truck, there's no way I'd recommended that.

The camper adds lots of weight & height, not good in winds or traveling through areas with damage (low trees & wires). Pulling a camper would be a huge PITA. It will kill your gas mileage, make it impossible to turn around when you get to areas with damage & the road is blocked. Leaving it somewhere, while you go chase during the day, and then returning to pick it up later isn't practical. I've started my chase day in Nebraska and ended up in Oklahoma by the end of the day. If you're worried about gas mileage, you can't possibly back track to pick up a camper at the end of each chase.

I'd work on getting your transmission rebuilt, in the burb, and make it your chase vehicle. Just my opinions. As long as you're safe & have fun, do what you want! Good luck whatever way you decide to go!
 
Feb 19, 2018
51
16
6
Dunlap Illinois
Here are a few images that I took perilously while driving. 20190519_120848.jpg
(Nothing really going on in this one)
20190917_122157.jpg
(Tornado Warned Storm, pretty nice Gustnado with an SLC hovering above it)
20190530_161907.jpg
(I took this one pointing away from the action)
20190429_192806.jpg
(Not much going on in this one)
20190527_150959.jpg
(Taken soon before I got hammered with pea sized hail)
20180620_185439.jpg
(I pulled over just to get this beautiful shot)

I remember taking one while going upwards of 90mph.

It was May of last year, the day after the Lewiston tornado.

I have footage of most of these events, but they were recorded onto VHS using my 1981 RCA CC011 Newvicon Tube Camera. I might upload some of that footage to YouTube at some point.
 
Feb 19, 2018
51
16
6
Dunlap Illinois
Just so I'm following - you are bragging about reckless driving and excessive speeding?
Yup.

You know yesterday I drove 80 miles without no drivers side door, turn signals, mirrors, and expired registration.

Never got pulled over.

I was driving to the junkyard in order to rectify this situation.
20200204_212835.jpg
(The other door was rusting apart to the paint where the doorskin was flapping up in the wind).
 

Mark Blue

Owner
Staff member
Feb 19, 2007
3,081
626
21
Colorado
The only thing I see on your schematic that you cannot use is Stormtrack on the door. I hope you aren’t planning to use that because anything you do in the field could reflect back on Stormtrack and we cannot be in a position that appears we are sponsoring your chase activities.

The senior members have given you quite a bit of good advice. Advice you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere, so I’d recommend following their guidance and definitely chase safe. We’ve had our fair share of deaths in the community and we’d rather not have another. For now I’m done playing Dad. I just want to see you accomplish your goals and return home safely when you do chase. :D
 
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Nate M.

EF0
May 16, 2019
23
79
1
Neosho Mo
Interesting to read. In the EU a manual transmission is still pretty much default. I too drive a manual and after so many miles you don't have to think about it anymore. So, I'd say that if chasing with a manual on the crowded roads of the EU is quite doable, it's no issue on the empty highways of Tornado Alley, even when it's a stressfull situation. And even in a case of a chaser convergence,
I still consider Tornado Alley highways empty
. ;-)
Manual is second nature, if you've driven them long enough. Those types of "accidents" and slip ups just don't happen.

My next build will likely be a manual Explorer.
Oh I love a standard transmission and prefer them in my day to day vehicle. I think everyone should know how to drive one, but I don’t think I’d prefer one in a chase vehicle, mainly because I’m forgetful and may have burned up an emergency brake once or twice! When chasing I just want to throw it in park and get out
 
May 2, 2018
10
4
1
Wausau WI
I am a total amature high school student who is planning a chasing trip this season, so I probably need all the help I can get here.

Other than being a storm spotter, I am a car guy, so I have some opinions on what an Ideal chase vehicle would be.

My Ideal chase vehicle would be a 5 speed 4 door Jeep Cherokee XJ with the 242 I6 (4.0L). They get good gas mileage, are rock solid reliable, and parts are super cheap.

My actual chase vehicle is quite a bit different though. It is a 1995 Chevrolet Suburban C1500 with a TBI 350 and TH700R4 Automagical Transmission.
View attachment 19591
It also has over 330,000 miles on it on the original engine and trans (Yes, the trans has never been rebuilt).
View attachment 19593
Despite this, it runs very well and the trans shifts like brand new.
View attachment 19595
My biggest issue is that it gets pretty shitty gas mileage (12-15 mpg highway).

So I have another vehicle I am thinking of setting up for chasing, the issue is that many may not see it as ideal.

I have a 1974 GMC C1500 that has at least 340,000 miles on it (can't know for sure since it has a 5 digit odometer) on it's original 250 inline 6 and 3 speed saginaw transmission.
View attachment 19594
Might seem like a bad idea for a chase vehicle, but hear me out:
View attachment 19592
-It would be great for a slide in camper (would pay for itself by saving on hotels).

- Square bodies are tough as nails, and last forever, it has all new brakes, lines master cylinder, and wheel cylinders.
View attachment 19596
-I got a an saginaw 3spd OD transmission ready to swap into it (bolts right up).

-Gets decent gas mileage with the inline 6.

-I have a new Camshaft and high compression Cylinderhead that I am going to put on it for Hot Rod Power Tour this year (Using the head from a 194 i6 I got for $35)

-And I already daily the thing.

Any of you drive interesting cause vehicles? Any of you car guys?
I too am graduating high school this year and i am planning to go on a storm chasing trip down to the plains this spring/summer. I have chased around my home area for 3+ years and i'm ready to go start my next adventure. Im using a 2012 Honda CRV which i never realized could be such an ideal car for storm chasing, especially longer distance chases. It gets around 30 mpg during the summer so great fuel economy. its automatic transmission which im not a huge fan of, but then again who wants to fiddle with a clutch and stick when your storm chasing. It does have AWD which im sure you know has its downsides. Its now approaching 120,000 miles, i bought it used at 75,000 miles a year ago. So far i have had absolutely no problems or complications with it, and its ran like a beauty.

Completely up to you but depending on when and where you are going on your chasing trip, im looking for people to chain up with during severe weather events this spring and summer. I don't know if you would be interested but figured i would ask as i like to make as many friends out in the field as I can.
 
Feb 19, 2018
51
16
6
Dunlap Illinois
I too am graduating high school this year and i am planning to go on a storm chasing trip down to the plains this spring/summer. I have chased around my home area for 3+ years and i'm ready to go start my next adventure. Im using a 2012 Honda CRV which i never realized could be such an ideal car for storm chasing, especially longer distance chases. It gets around 30 mpg during the summer so great fuel economy. its automatic transmission which im not a huge fan of, but then again who wants to fiddle with a clutch and stick when your storm chasing. It does have AWD which im sure you know has its downsides. Its now approaching 120,000 miles, i bought it used at 75,000 miles a year ago. So far i have had absolutely no problems or complications with it, and its ran like a beauty.

Completely up to you but depending on when and where you are going on your chasing trip, im looking for people to chain up with during severe weather events this spring and summer. I don't know if you would be interested but figured i would ask as i like to make as many friends out in the field as I can.
I'd be glad to chain up.

I graduate May 9th, and hope to leave within a week of that, and I don't actually live that far from you.

Your CRV sounds like an actually practical vehicle for the circumstances.

If I had any sense I would follow suit, but I don't.

Anyways, I'm looking for some friends in the field as well.
 
Feb 19, 2018
51
16
6
Dunlap Illinois
The only thing I see on your schematic that you cannot use is Stormtrack on the door. I hope you aren’t planning to use that because anything you do in the field could reflect back on Stormtrack and we cannot be in a position that appears we are sponsoring your chase activities.

The senior members have given you quite a bit of good advice. Advice you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere, so I’d recommend following their guidance and definitely chase safe. We’ve had our fair share of deaths in the community and we’d rather not have another. For now I’m done playing Dad. I just want to see you accomplish your goals and return home safely when you do chase. :D
I guess I've been a bit cocky.

I'll try my best to be safe out, and follow your guys' advice.

I won't put Stormtrack on the door, but there will be a tornado on there.

By the time I leave, the truck will, mechanically at least, be pretty much brand new.
 
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Reactions: Mark Blue
Feb 19, 2018
51
16
6
Dunlap Illinois
This truck is finally comming around.
20200207_145122.jpg
I just sprayed a new coat of paint on it, and installed a "neused" dashpad.
20200209_154555.jpg
I am almost thinking of having the seat reupholstered.
20200209_154637.jpg
And maybe installing some sound deadening foam into the floor.
20200207_145205.jpg
I just have to build myself a living quarters in the back of the truck, and install all my equipment.

I also will do the trans swap when I have time.
 

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